—David Miscavige, captain of a legal fiction—
(Note: This article first appeared on Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker and is republished here for archival reasons.)
Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder recently reported that church lawyer Gary Soter had sent a threat letter to former Scientology executive Dan Koon.
The church had learned that Koon helped Ron Miscavige Sr., the father of Scientology leader David Miscavige, write his memoir, which is due to come out in 2016. In his letter, Soter informed Koon that by merely helping Ron write his book, he was in violation of nondisclosure agreements and bonds he had signed as a Scientology officer. Those documents Koon had signed carried heavy penalties for violating their terms, Soter claimed.
On March 12, 1980 you agreed to pay $5,000,000 in liquidated damages for “breach of security of the CMO INT or any units working under CMO INT. This would include anything heard with regards to work…”
Sea Org members make about $40 per week — when they’re paid at all — but Scientology expects its indentured servants to pay a $5,000,000 penalty for breaking the Sea Org’s rules. What really stood out, however, was something else Soter included in his letter. Can you spot it?
On May 12, 2000 you signed a “Declaration of Religious Commitment and Membership in the Sea Organization. Paragraph 8 of that Agreement states: “I agree to maintain the confidentiality of all communications…all documents, all files, all mailing lists and all other material not commonly offered to the public for sale or use…which may come into my knowledge or possession in the course of my services as a member of the Sea Organization…”
You might remember that we’ve pointed out before how David Miscavige’s attorney, Lamont Jefferson, has said in official court documents that the Sea Org has no legal standing and has no members. Here’s what Jefferson wrote in a filing in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit against Miscavige…
Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Miscavige exercised control because he leads the Sea Organization, a religious order within Scientology. But the ‘Sea Org’ is not a corporate entity; it has no physical or legal existence. It is not incorporated or established pursuant to legal formalities. It has no constitution, charter or bylaws, and no formal or informal ecclesiastical, corporate, or other management structure. It has no directors, officers, managing agents, or other executives; no employees, staff members, or volunteers; no income; no disbursements, no bank accounts or other assets; no liabilities; no stationery; no office, home, address, or telephone number. It does not create or maintain any financial, personnel, or other records. It can neither give nor receive orders because it has no one to either give or receive them or to carry them out. It cannot sue or be sued.
What Jefferson told a Texas court aligns with what the Church told the IRS to get its tax exempt status in 1993:
Although there is no such “organization” as the Sea Organization, the term Sea Org has a colloquial usage which implies that there is. There are general recruitment posters and literature for “The Sea Org” which implies that people will be employed by the Sea Org when in reality they will join, making the billion year commitment, at some church that is staffed by Sea Org members and become employees of that church corporation.
So, while Scientology tells courts and governments that its Sea Org has no legal reality and no members, it tells Sea Org members like Dan Koon something very different.
But then again, Scientology isn’t even consistent in what it says in the courtroom. Here’s what another Scientology attorney, Bert Deixler, said in a court briefing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit against the church…
“It is exclusively from the Sea Org that the senior leadership of Scientology is drawn.”
The Sea Org has no members. But Deixler told a California court that the senior leadership of Scientology is drawn “exclusively” from the Sea Org – a group that Mr. Jefferson told a Texas court can have no directors, officers, managing agents, executives, employees, staff members, or volunteers.
So, let’s review the scorecard…
— In order to keep David Miscavige out of a deposition in a Texas lawsuit, Scientology claims that the Sea Org does not exist and has no members. Sea Org members derive authority only from their posts in the Church of Scientology hierarchy.
— In order to threaten Dan Koon, Gary Soter asserts that the Sea Org and its contracts exist, that they are legally binding; and that they can serve as the basis of a lawsuit to collect $5,000,000 in liquidated damages.
— In order to claim First Amendment protection for its abusive treatment of employees, Bert Deixler said in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit that all of Scientology’s senior executives are drawn from its monastic order the Sea Org.
Deixler was unsparing on this point in defending the Sea Org’s policies, which include outrageous treatment of children, as Laura DeCrescenzo was. Deixler cited Higgins v. Maher (1989), a case which states that anyone who enters into employment as religious clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities:
The courts of this State have recognized that the ministerial exception bars judicial interference with discipline or administration by churches of their clergy…”In our society, jealous as it is of separation of church and state, one who enters the clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities in terms of job rights.”
As I wrote in a previous column, this “ministerial exception” is why Sea Org workers do not have to be paid minimum wage or overtime; why they can be locked up and brutalized in the Rehabilitation Project Force; and why they receive no pension after decades of service. Scientology has been able to subject its workforce to endless hours, sleep deprivation, unhealthful food and psychological terrorizing, and American courts have been reluctant to do anything about it.
The Church sees Sea Org members as “coins” that can be traded among Orgs and then kicked to the curb when they weaken from age or infirmity. The Sea Org euphemism for this cruelty is called “Fitness Boarding.” Old and sick Sea Org members are fitness boarded, given $500, and then shown the door.
Is what I am describing inaccurate? Is my language too strong? Not according to the words of Bert Deixler and the Church of Scientology in their filings opposing Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit:
Even if an ecclesiastical decision appears harsh, humiliating, unfair, or irrational from a secular viewpoint, civil courts have no role to play…
The Church of Scientology’s justification for its humiliating and sadistic treatment of Sea Org workers is the First Amendment. However, when Captain David Miscavige of the Sea Org is at risk of being deposed, the Sea Org does not exist.
The Church of Scientology should not be able to have it both ways: A legally nonexistent entity cannot have First Amendment protections.
The late Earle Cooley, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, once caught someone the Church was suing in a contradiction during a deposition. Cooley calmly asked, “So which story are you sticking with?”
Thus, we turn Mr. Cooley’s question to David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology: Does the Sea Org exist or does it not exist?
Which story are you sticking with, Mr. Miscavige?